The No More Page 3 campaign is being played by The Sun

This article was written yesterday before The Sun published a topless model this morning whilst they thanked media outlets for their speculation about Page 3 being dropped. Thankfully, this move only reinforces my understanding of the PR situation, as outlined below!

The media furore about The Sun dropping Page 3 from their newspaper has been hailed by many No More Page 3 campaigners as a victory for feminism. They were joined by influential voices, including Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, and News Statesman contributing editor Laurie Penny. However, the truth behind News UK’s decision may not be down to No More Page 3’s campaigners.

And read this post knowing that I’m personally a supporter of their campaign (read this blog post from last year) and the agency I work for invited the campaign to speak at our Social Media Week London event.

The No More Page 3 campaign has led an active social media campaign that is organised by a dozen or so passionate campaigners through social media. Their Twitter profile is surrounded by thousands of supporters who believe Page 3 must go. When counter arguments are proposed, supporters are quick to provide rebuttal (and surround any trolls).

  • Tactically, their campaign is brilliant.
  • Strategically, I think it needs more work.

This has been highlighted by the current decision by News UK. Great, Page 3 has now been dropped from The Sun, but I imagine many Page 3 supporters may feel like their job is left unfinished. Because in reality, Page 3 still exists, and No More Page 3 never successfully positioned itself as a single-issue campaign.

This lack of strategic focus is the main reason why No More Page 3 supporters have just been lured into a gigantic PR bear trap. Yes. I really think The Sun has just thrown a PR curve ball.

As recently published in the Financial Times, “Page 3 move reveals Sun’s online challenge” (£),

“Only 225,000 people have a digital subscription to The Sun — compared with the paper’s daily print circulation of 1.9m. As audiences move online, The Sun is gaining fewer than two digital subscribers for every three print copies lost.”

This is a big problem for The Sun. Business Insider claims the newspaper is still going through a transitional period and has shed visitors since going behind a paywall last year. In this transitional period, The Sun has a major weapon, Page 3 (A.K.A. ‘soft porn’ in my opinion…).

The newspapers may be saying that The Sun has ‘dropped’ Page 3, but in reality it has just moved online. Why? So the newspaper can increase their digital subscribers. This frames Rupert Murdoch’s frequently referenced tweet about Page 3 in a rather different light (there were other tweets too).

It was an orchestrated media effort designed to provide a tangible timeline of The Sun dropping Page 3 from the newspaper, suggesting that the feature was dated. This would then generate speculation, discussion and eventually the claim of victory from the No More Page 3 campaign. The elephant in the room is that Page 3 is far from dead, thriving as part of their online newspaper (which is where opportunity for business growth lies anyway). Every comment about Page 3 being dropped from the newspaper simply acts as a reminder that the feature is now only available online.

The evidence for this will be the next time The Sun’s digital subscribers are counted. I’m willing to bet that this unique selling point for the newspaper’s digital subscription may be enough to sway some readers away from paper.

Still, despite my understanding of the media situation, I’m delighted Page 3 girls will need to wear clothes in the newspaper. As argued in the past, my main concern with the feature was that it isn’t news; porn should not be in a family focused newspaper. From a business perspective, Page 3 is wrongly positioned in this day and age to even exist in print.

However, my views aren’t nearly as strong as some supporters, who see Page 3 as a small part of a much wider feminist debate.

If I had some advice for No More Page 3 it would be this:

  1. Understand whether you are a single-issue campaign or if you’re willing to take part in the wider debate about feminism. If you are single-issue, what is this issue? Is it really No More Page 3? Is it to remove Page 3 from the print newspaper? Is it to campaign against glamour modelling? Your messaging in the media is not clear.
  2. Stop thinking about tactics. Get a strategic focus. Thousands of Twitter followers look good but will it drive real change? Think about who makes the decisions about Page 3. Would what influence those people? In my experience subtle campaigns frequently drive bigger results than EXPLOSIVE CONSUMER BOLLOCKS.
  3. Don’t let The Sun play you, because you are being played right now. The newspaper is using your campaign to drive their digital subscribers. The burn of the media light is on you. What are you going to say that people will clearly remember?

Social media gets exciting when you can perform network analysis. I just did.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 20.47.24It’s peculiar that the majority of mainstream social media tools tend to focus more on the content shared across social media, rather than how accounts are connected with each other. There are various ways to conduct social media research but my favourite way is to perform network analysis. Over the last couple of years there have been astounding developments in these sorts of tools.

Twitter is a network which lends itself to be ideal for network analysis because of its non-mutual relationships between accounts (e.g. I can follow @stephenfry but he doesn’t have to follow back) and it’s fairly open data sharing policy. Even without official access to the Twitter Firehose, I am able to scrape enough data in a few seconds which can be visualised beautifully.

The image below is a link to an interactive Twitter map that displays the last 915 tweets from the #NeedForSpeed promotional Twitter campaign that ran yesterday (Thurs 13th March 2014). Be assured, this isn’t data from a client campaign and is only fuelled by publicly available data. If anything, this makes the insights even more incredible because a simple geek can quickly draw conclusions about this social media advertising campaign without actually having access to the advertiser’s dashboard.

Do click through and visually navigate your way across the Twitter map, investigate how Twitter users are connected with each other and decide what conclusions you can draw from this campaign (Do comment your conclusions, would be interesting to read).

Twitter Network Analysis
Click this image to visit interactive map

Here’s a guide to the interactive map:

  • Colours represent organic communities (AKA. value groups)
  • Lines indicate follow/followed relationships
  • Node size refers to influence (bigger the better), as calculate by the number of connections

It’s these sorts of visualisations that empower the theoretical side of the PR industry and why some aspects can only be understood from that angle. Do take a deep breath and dive into this post written by David Phillips in November 2012. In the post Phillips talks candidly about his struggle to devise a concept that would bring PR theory in line with what we know about the internet. He had a brainwave…

“It goes back to some work I did on tokens and values in which we identify people and organisation as the nexus of values; the work of Bruno Amaral who showed that people cluster round commonly held values (an empirical study); Thoughts about wealth being based on relationships… In an era of mass-media dilution, communication has a higher and growing dependency on network communication as a mechanism to introduce individuals to the story of the hour. It is this development that is the evolving and critical element that PR theory has to address most urgently. We need to see why and how values (some of them being no more than a hyperlink) spread in networks and how this is different to mass media ‘communication’.”

From 2012 there have been a number of studies to attempt showing the network effect of social media communication but the challenge was to devise a method of instantly tracking network changes, based upon content being shared. At the centre of this, is the foundational understanding that people will congregate around values online (in actual fact the rabbit hole goes much deeper on this issue, but this is a matter for another blog post).

These network graphs highlight another important observation about how we use social media. Even with freedom of expression and ability to link in non-mutual relationships, as a species we are still bound by our very nature. Something that anthropologists may refer to as Dunbar’s number, we tend to communicate in an average group size of 150 people. Any more than this and we are unable to maintain stable social relationships. Different industries need to be aware of this limitation as previous research as shown me that:

  • The PR industry (PRCA & CIPR practitioners) tend to fall into a network pickle. We broadcast content, share and reach agreement as an internal community, rather than engaging with practitioners outside of our digital social circles. Therefore, for most of us, social media is simply a massive echo chamber for internal debate. When, in reality, it’s probably our clients that would benefit from most the materials we create.
  • We aren’t the only ones to fall into this trap, previous research has shown me that the travel blogging community is similar. With some of the top bloggers creating engagement between themselves rather than reaching out to the ‘general public’. It’s too be expected, social media may eventually influence our natural behaviours but for the moment we’re still only humans!

These sorts of visualisations start to get really interesting when applied to other social networks, such as LinkedIn or Quora. Thanks to the research capabilities at Keene Communications and Social Media Research Foundation, I’m getting closer each day.

 

Google Chrome Releases “It Gets Better” Advert

 

Google Chrome has released an advert which works alongside Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project which is aimed to provide inspiration for teens dealing with depression, bullying and suicide. In this particular Ad Google examples how using Google Chrome and YouTube thousands of teens are being connected around the world to talk about their experiences and convince others that life is beautiful.

For me this advert not only shows the brilliant work of Dan Savage and Google but also how we often forget one simple thing about social networks. They do not exist for companies to sell to us; social networks were created for us to connect with each other.

 

World Book Night 2011

World Book Night 2011 has begun. The event was inspired after the success of World Book Day, an event where thousands of school children in the UK and Ireland receive book tokens. My copy of the book below is one of 40,000 copies of the 25 titles which have been printed for World Book Night 2011. Do the maths and it will reveal that 1,000,000 books are being shared this year between friends, family, colleagues and strangers. Essentially the event sees 20,000 members of the public give away 48 copies of their favourite book.

World Book Night 2011: David Nicholls, One Day

For some World Book Night 2011 has been welcomed with all the joy of meeting their mother-in-law (It has taken me over 2 years to slip a mother-in-law joke into this blog. Too soon?). Controversy surrounds the outcome of this giveaway; will it harm small booksellers and authors or will World Book Night 2011 cause more to find the joy reading?

If I were an author then I would welcome World Book Night 2011. I have spoken with a few authors and none of them have listed money for the reason they write. With the costs of publishing and marketing there is very little money left to the author as profit. Instead the highest reason for writing is the joy of seeing your book on the shop’s shelf or seeing others reading your book. To see 40,000 copies of your book distributed as part of World Book Night 2011 as an author will only raise your profile.

Most the free books I received as a child were bibles or various translations, so I welcome World Book Night 2011 as a change. Once I have finished this book I’ll pass it on and hopefully get my hands on another copy of a World Book Night 2011 branded book. Now move away from your computer and read a book. 🙂

Why I Quit Facebook (and you should too)

At 8:25am this morning I deleted my Facebook account. In this article I have detailed the reasons and perhaps why you should do the same.

Before sitting down to write this article I had to consider the many factors which may come to haunt me in the aftermath. As a student who prides himself by pushing ahead of the social media game, not only leaving Facebook but then negatively writing about it could harm future career prospects. Somewhere stored in a database in the archives of the BBC is written my name with “Facebook Hitler” next to it for Radio Stations to call whenever a negative opinion of Facebook is needed. This piece of writing isn’t exactly concerned with “Why Facebook is bad” but instead “Why Facebook isn’t right for me”. So don’t be fooled by my often cynical, frequently rampant debacle of this social network. Sitting before the PC now is a student who has grown tired of this particular breed of social network. Personally I’ve had enough and if I have written and argued well enough, perhaps you will leave Facebook too.

It all started with a Secondary School student called Shane Murphy who sent the, then considerably rare, “I’ve added you as a friend on Facebook” email. A title to this very day which doesn’t make sense as before 15th April 2007 I didn’t have a Facebook account. Indeed the first time I heard about the network (then called the thefacebook) wasn’t too long after its conception in 2004. At the time I was a member of St Paul’s Church in Cheam and was beginning to get into a scripting language called Hypertext Preprocessor (Check out ‘How Does Facebook Work?’), commonly known as PHP, the same language which binds Facebook together today. Instead of gazing at Facebook as network which would change the world, my friends and I were only interested in the technical aspects of it.

Registered to Facebook Image
Newly Registered to Facebook

Eventually I joined the network. When I decided to trawl through the emails in my inbox to find the above Facebook registration email I didn’t expect to be treading down memory lane. Since using Facebook I have never switched off email notifications and I found myself gazing at past private messages and wall posts from bygone romances, ex-girlfriends, former friends and colleagues. Such conversations should never be preserved so freshly…

Fictitious Friends, Lost Acquaintances and Stalkers
Any social network blurs the line between friend and contact. The most awful occurrences example this the most such as the death of Simone Back but most the time people live their lives out on Facebook with the feeling that they are being sociable. Facebook has removed the art of actually talking with your friends to find out how they are doing. Nowadays (I’m now beginning to sound like an old man) checking how your friends are doing simply consists of checking their social media profile. I admit this might not just be a problem with Facebook but with social media culture as a whole. However, in my view, Facebook leads the way for this unsociable generation, the Facebook generation. In conversations I found myself not asking my friends what they had been up to recently but instead ‘Oh, I saw your last Facebook status about x y z’. It drives me nuts!

Not only that but I bet most of your friends on Facebook aren’t really friends. They might simply be internet contacts who you are friendly with and added you on Facebook. In many cases Facebook is the network for lost acquaintances, the network which caused Friends Reunited to lose their share of the social network market, the network which gives you the opportunity to get back in contact with the people you never gave a shit about in the first place.

On examination my Facebook contact list features a large amount of people fom Primary School, Secondary School and Sixth Form College. Most of which I don’t have any direct communication with and may never have actually been friends originally. I was simply added because they found me on Facebook and for some reason I accepted their request (probably because I didn’t want to seem rude). Facebook allowed me to still be in communication with them (or gave the illusion thereof) and I could stalk them to my heart’s content.

Don’t think stalking is an activity on Facebook which is exclusive to the strangers, everyone does it. Stalking happens even if you don’t mean to because all of your contacts new photos, statuses, relationships, etc, will appear on the Facebook New Feed. We are all stalkers on Facebook and nobody is left behind.

Building a Blogging Proposal for Microsoft’s Young Britain Works

There was a time when the internet played host to content from organisation, corporations and individuals who understood the world of servers and scripting. No doubt this seemed the case during the early 90’s when the majority of websites would simply provide content to users. Sharing opinion would be the case for a relatively small amount of forum systems but would most commonly appear on a host of chatrooms – Internet Relay Chat (IRC) being the largest. To this day IRC still plays host for over a million users worldwide.

Blogging sounds the trumpet for when matters of the online world started to become a personal matter. The movement pushed forward by Matt Mullenweg, a highly successful internet entrepreneur and the founder of WordPress, a blogging platform which has changed the face of personal weblogs and Content Management Systems (CMS).

The reason for this blogtastical muse is due to a project I have come involved with called Young Britain Works. The initiative began by Microsoft has the aim to reach out to young people to equip them with the skills and resources needed for them to find their first job. Assisting with the Public Relations (PR) aspect of the program is Edelman. The largest independent PR agency with over 50 offices around the world. Microsoft and Edelman make for a formidable mix which has already driven thousands of young people towards their first job.

The Young Britain Works project is being run by the interns at Microsoft and has given us all a chance to get stuck into a project outside of our job description. Initially this has started with the founding of the Young Britain Works Facebook page (which I urge you all to join) but never should an online campaign consist of only one communication platform, always spread out to different networks.

Last week I was given the duty to build an engagement plan to utilise blogging to raise awareness, build numbers and initiate conversation for Young Britain Works. I must confess this isn’t the most daunting project I have been involved with. The asks of a publishing company (raise real world sales through online promotion) has been the scariest. Yet, the corporate weight behind Young Britain Works means I must scrutinise every little detail of my social media proposal. It cannot be second best, it must be flawless and inevitably quite long.

As explained at the beginning of this article blogging marks a time of when the internet began to become personal. The raised profile of personal weblogs also caused other companies and individuals to start websites of their own in order to promote blogs. In my eyes a blog should always be the cornerstone of any social media activity. It is where the hyperlink should point to give online promotions the weight they deserve.

Hyperlinks are really the internet. Without links the online world would not be possible. Therefore a social media campaign must have that foundation link. Not only does it allow a spot for information to be placed but statistically can be a good measure for Click Through Rates (CTR). I can guarantee you my Twitter account would not have built up so many followers if it wasn’t for this blog.

As with all social media campaigns it is important to place people first. Advertising may focus on the brand but social media needs to focus on the person. It is the key behind engagement, especially for a project like Young Britain Works. The program is about helping young people and so should be introduced and performed in a manner recognisable to young people. Which is probably why Microsoft interns where chosen to nurse the project into a fine health.

My social media proposal has much to be desired at this stage but yet again building a blogging proposal for this program is a big ask whilst I have got online advertising campaigns running across a dozen countries at work. It will get done, although mostly in-between large breaks necessary for my mind to keep functioning until my next piece of time off – Christmas.

Social Media Trends I Expect to See in 2011

Last night I participated in the #CommsChat session on Twitter. More information about the sessions can be found on their website. If you are a PR Student or communications professional then I highly recommend you join in with the discussions. This blog post is inspired from last night’s discussions.

The Rise of Gamification
Gamification is a concept which has been around for a while but this year games such as Farmville have really shown the power behind this kind of social business. I wrote a little post about it last week which has gained some attention. Gamification will continue to grow in the form of more social games being developed/embracing strategic online marketing. Companies will continue to use social networks for games and competitions for their marketing strategies.

Continuation of Social Media Convergence
The problem with social media convergence is that a plugin for a network needs to work very hard to beat the original experience. For example, the new MSN Messenger allows you to view Facebook but needs to work hard to beat the original Facebook interface. Social media will continue to converge. This not only means links from other websites and games but also linkups to mobile devices. Social networks allow a wealth of personal information which is very useful for all sorts of applications. I know this is already happening but again the usage can only increase.

Overlaps with Online Advertising and Social Media
The days of just monitoring CPC (Cost Per Click) or CPM (Cost Per Thousand) are being challenged by engagement. Measuring engagement is difficult and is currently done by monitoring interaction with online advertisements. Online advertising will have a real edge if it can provide a positive interaction with a user and then allow that user to share the advertisement on their social networks.

Geo-tagging and Augmented Reality
I’m not entirely sure if this will happen in 2011 but I really hope it does. The concept of augmented reality geo-tagging would possibly be an evolution from platforms such as FourSquare. Various augmented reality prototype apps have been developed already but none have been refined just yet. Beyond 2011 augmented reality will become a foundation for online advertising and social media engagement in the physical world. Finding it difficult to measure real world sales using social media? Augmented reality could be one of the answers.

Social Commerce
Facebook marketplace is already growing and I believe this trend is only set to continue. We may see other sites appear which allow social commerce, perhaps providing interlinks to already popular social networks. There is definitely a lack for a Twitter social market place for trading locally. Whilst eBay is one form of social commerce, it is not a website which allows you to trade exclusively with friends, family, colleagues and shared contacts.

If you have more to add to this list then feel free to share in the comments. Perhaps share your own blog post in the comments?

Social Media “Gamification”

Increasingly brands are getting involved with a heightened level of social interaction through social media, using games. This is called Gamification and surprisingly Wikipedia has very little to say about the term.

Gamification began with rewarding points for social interaction. Early examples of this could be seen with PHPbb forum post count which allowed people to increase in rank depending upon their post number. Other PHPbb plugins allowed the imaginary monetisation of forum posts and turned communities into imaginary marketplaces based on interaction.

The point is that Gamification finds the part of each person which is competitive and gives reason to share their experiences with other users. Recently websites such as FourSquare have turned Geo-Location into a service which can reward you badges, as well as discounts and freebies in the real world.

The actual term Gamification is fairly new or at least nothing substantial could be applied to the term before a few years ago. Due to this I’m going to form my own views of this phenomenon.

There are several forms of Gamification:

  • Services which involve Gamification as a feature (ie. FourSquare)
  • Services which could be used for Gamification (ie. Twitter)

I find the second option far more interesting. If anything Gamification is just a word which online social contest encompass. Gamification becomes apparent when people of networks have been involved into some sort of contest. This might be to win points, services, products… anything.

Gamification takes social networks and gives them a competitive edge which brands can use to promote their own services. Gamification can prove positive results, just look at Farmville. This infamous game boasts 80 million users, plaugues our Facebook newsfeeds and has involvements promoting brands.

From the weathering heights of Farmville to the adverts on websites which allow us to kick a ball into the goal or shoot a duck. Advertising uses methods of Gamification – technically something which can make the one-way basic nature of online advertising into an interactive experience. Suddenly Click Through Rates (CTR) needs to be weighed up against aspects of engagement.

For the next few weeks I will definitely be learning and noticing Gamification as this area of social media continues to grow. What other examples of Gamification can you think of?